Handicaps to Host Defense: Effects of Hyperglycemia on C3 and Candida albicans

  1. Margaret K Hostetter
  1. Departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Margaret K. Hostetter, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Box 296 UMHC, University of Minnesota Medical School, 420 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455.


The hyperglycemic patient remains persistently at risk for infectious complications. Whether ascribable to diabetes mellitus, to the administration of glucocorticoids, or to the infusion of hyperalimentation fluids, hyperglycemia may impair several mechanisms of humoral host defense, including such varied neutrophil functions as adhesion, chemotaxis, and phagocytosis. In addition, binding of glucose to the biochemically active site of the third component of complement C3 inhibits the attachment of this protein to the microbial surface and thereby impairs opsonization. Last, several pathogens frequently encountered in hyperglycemic patients possess unique mechanisms of virulence that flourish in the hyperglycemic environment. Most notable in this regard is the yeast Candida albicans, which expresses a glucose-inducible protein that is structurally and functionally homologous to a complement receptor on mammalian phagocytes. This protein promotes adhesion in the yeast and subverts phagocytosis by the host. Thus, hyperglycemia serves as a central mechanism in the predisposition of hyperglycemic patients to infection.

  • Received September 5, 1989.
  • Revision received September 29, 1989.
  • Accepted September 29, 1989.
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